Last month, I read with huge disappointment that the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy seemed to be all in on Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkin’s inhumane proposal (in this writer’s opinion) to put those who are dealing with substance abuse and homelessness into an empty detention facility.
I call it inhumane because the plan was just to literally just snatch people of the street against their will and commit them to a…well, let’s call it what it is: jail.
Now eviction notices have been given to those living in the area around Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard. It all sounds like something out of a secret police nightmare.
So, this is what it has come to? A city that has run out of ideas on how to deal with the problems that plague Mass and Cass and homelessness in general is actually willing to listen to a law enforcement official who naturally wants to lock everybody up.
Like that will solve the problem. Here’s a newsflash for the AG and anyone else who thinks Tompkin’s idea is a solution: it’s not. and how did we even get here? Maybe begin there. It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since the sudden closure of Long Island Shelter. If you really want to put your finger on blame for “The Mile,” then that is as good as any place to start.
Let’s put aside for a moment the reason for the closure and the ongoing feud with Quincy. There didn’t seem to be a plan in place by the Walsh administration, which, frankly, seemed more interested in the Olympics coming to Boston than people’s lives.
The Southampton shelter was opened after pressure from homeless-led groups. But mostly people were on their own. There were recovery programs and other support initiatives on the Island. Many in those programs — primarily those in recovery with little or no support once the Island was closed — relapsed.
No surprise there. Many ended up on the mile. Those that lived, that is. Probably one of the biggest mistakes in all of this is the lack of homeless voices in this discussion. How can people who have absolutely no idea about homelessness or substance abuse make decisions about people’s lives?
Instead, as usual, people are playing politics, and, of course, the narrative from them and some media outlets offers no resolution but the criminalization of the poor folks who live in tents — lock them up against their will. I hear people saying what else are we supposed to do? Try asking those folks whose lives are affected by the decision you are making for them.
I’m sure they will tell you.